How to Cook Lobster

If you're intimidated by live lobsters, relax; they're easy to fix. Think about lobster prep like cooking corn on the cob -- just plunge them into boiling water. The whole process takes about 30 minutes using these step-by-step directions.

Step 1: Buying fresh lobsters

Lobster is one of the rare foods that you cook from a live state. Make sure the lobsters you buy are from a trusted source and are still alive and moving when you purchase them. If you pick up a live lobster, the tail will curl under the body. The most popular lobsters in the United States (and the kind shown here) are Maine lobsters, which are known for their sweet meat. Although available year-round, lobsters tend to be less expensive in spring and summer months. Live lobsters have a mottled appearance with a greenish-blue-brown cast. Buy lobsters the day you plan to fix them, and store them in seawater or wrapped in a wet cloth over ice in the refrigerator until cooking time.

                Tip: Plan on one 1- to 1-1/2-pound lobster per person. This will yield about 4 to 6 ounces of meat per serving.

Step 2: Prepping and boiling lobsters


For two 1- to 1-1/2-pound lobsters, bring 8 quarts of salted water to boiling in a 20-quart or larger kettle (such as a canning pot) with a lid. The size of the kettle is key because the lobsters need to fit completely inside with the lid closed. Grasp each lobster just behind the eyes and rinse under cold running water. Quickly plunge lobsters head-first into the boiling water and cover the kettle. Boil for 15 minutes (start timing right away even though it takes a few minutes for the water to return to boiling), adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil. For larger lobsters, increase boiling time. Drain lobsters and remove any bands on the large claws.

Tip: Lobsters turn bright red and the tails turn under when they are done, but you can also pull off a small leg or long antennae. Either should come off easily when the lobster is done.

Step 3: Removing the meat

When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, place each lobster on its back. Remove the tail by twisting the tail and body in opposite directions.

Use kitchen shears to cut the membrane from the tail to expose the meat. Remove and discard the black vein running through the tail. Remove meat from tail.

Twist the large claws where they join the body to remove them.

Break open the large claws with a nutcracker.

Pull the claw meat from the shell with a little tug. Crack the shell on the remaining part of the body, and remove the meat with a small fork.

Tip: Some people eat the green tomalley (liver) and the coral roe (bright orange eggs found inside female lobsters), while others prefer to discard them.

Clarified butter is the usual accompaniment to boiled lobster.

See Clarified Butter recipe


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